Your Guide to Drinking at Home: Milwaukee’s Top 5 Liquor Stores & Home Bar Tips

Five places with the best booze selections, and tips from Jordan Burich on stocking a home bar.

Build Your Own Home Bar

The theme of Jordan Burich’s bar might change depending on what project is keeping his mind of
mixed drinks occupied, but there’s always a spot for a framed photo of his grandparents. When the co-founder of the Sprezzatura popup dinner series and part-owner of to-come-in-2018 Vine Society bar/wine shop was a lad and visited his elders at Christmas, his grandfather asked everyone, kids included, “Can I make you a drink?” Burich got his kiddie cocktail, and as he grew, he learned from the old master the makings of a proper old fashioned. He owes his spirit love to the 87-year-old, who still bartends on occasion.

His current home setup – complete with Italian aperitifs, glassware and culinary reading material – reflects the negronis, the boulevardiers and wines from the grape-growing regions he highlights through Sprezzatura. Making and presenting complex drinks that seem effortless in his MO. Burich brings his copy of the techy imbibing book Liquid Intelligence to every tending job. His tips for building your home bar: 

  • Stock at least a bottle each of vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, brandy and secondaries such as vermouth.
  • Opt for heavier tumblers. “You don’t hold the drink, you hold the glass,” he says. You want something firm you can grip. 
  • Go DIY when possible. Make your own simple syrup for margaritas. Whip up a batch of bitters, or buy the top-notch local Bittercube line.
  • Take time to garnish. Burich uses a pasta cutter to make lemon-rind “noodles.”

Milwaukee’s Top 5 Liquor Stores

Discount Liquor

5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.; 919 W. Barstow Ave., Waukesha
Don’t let the word “discount” fool you. This sprawling storefront appeals as much to craft beer aficionados and wine connoisseurs as to people looking for an affordable bottle of the hard stuff. It’s earned a slew of accolades and regularly opens its doors to other local companies, such as Great Lakes Distillery, for sampling events.

Downer Avenue Wine & Spirits

2638 N. Downer Ave.
This East Side gem doesn’t stock as many bottles as others on this list, but its selection is ever-changing and expertly curated. Staff members are always ready with recs, too. And it boasts the city’s largest selection of Kosher wine.

Otto’s Wine & Spirits

Multiple locations
The late Otto Kujus opened his first MKE-area liquor store in 1945. His legacy lives on in seven metro-area storefronts. All are employee-owned, and the staffers clearly take pride in their work. They take regular trips to vineyards and breweries around the world to maintain their expertise, and pass it on to customers.

Ray’s Wine & Spirits

8930 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa
This Wauwatosa stalwart, open since 1961, has aged as well as the wine it sells. Speaking of which, it boasts a selection 8,000 varieties, along with 2,000 spirits and 1,000 beers. It also hosts tap takeovers in its on-site bar, the Growler Gallery, and offers frequent shoppers a rewards program.

Three Cellars

7228 S. 27th St., Oak Creek; N72 W13400 Lund Lane, Menomonee Falls
This store earns high marks for its ambience and knowledgeable staff. On Saturdays, from 1-4 p.m., employees at both locations offer free tastings, expertly talking tipplers through their selections. It also started stocking beers from up-and-coming Wisco breweries – Tribute, Black Husky, Central Waters – before competitors.


The Ultimate Milwaukee Drinking Guide

‘I’ll Drink to That’ appears in the December 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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